Posted on April 29 2011 by Mases Hagopian
Twilight Princess is a game loved by many fans of the Legend of Zelda series. It features an in-depth story which dives into the lives of the characters, creating plot twists, foreshadowing, etc. Looking at it from a literature perspective, the story of Twilight Princess also presents an overarching theme that pertains to the game, other stories, and life as well. It can be interpreted many ways, but here’s how I summed it up in one statement…
“Getting to know what is not fully understood.”
This theme appears in Twilight Princess in both subtle and obvious ways. The way to most easily observe this is to look at the most important characters, Link and Midna.
Link and Midna
Link and Midna’s relationship in the game starts off extremely rough. Midna bosses Link around as though he is insignificant while Link despises everything Midna says or does. The two do not think highly of each other at all. Looking beyond the surface of this, it is clear what this represents, both for the characters and the world at large.
Link is from Hyrule, the world of light. He also represents the general concept of what we as humans consider light. Light, as a tool of symbolism, is used to represent a force of extreme good. In stories such representations include noble knights, pure children, courageous heroes, etc. This is not to say that these types of characters are perfect. The term generally applies to characters with a fixed and perhaps “naïve” sense of what is right and wrong. People with these “illuminating” personalities of light also exist in the world outside of video games and stories as well. Link is a representation of those people.
Midna is from the Twilight World, which is also known as the shadow of Hyrule. Her representation is kind of like the opposite of Link’s. With her imp-like appearance and use of shadow rather than light, she is represented as Link’s opposite. Characters like Midna have an imperfect sense of morality, never openly confronting others and always living their lives shadily. Midna represents all the Robin Hoods and Dark Knights of the world.
As one would imagine, when these two forces come together, they don’t instinctively click. When Link first enters the Twilight in the game, he changes into a wolf and encounters monsters. He is exposed to only the bad things that can be found in the Twilight, which gives him a low opinion of it. He demonstrates this when he meets Midna for the first time by growling at her. Though he has no idea who Midna is, Link makes the decision that she can’t be trusted because she is clearly from this strange world of Twilight. Midna, however, surprisingly frees Link from his chains and even helps him to escape. After this, Link still does not fully trust Midna but he reluctantly lets her help him.
This whole scenario demonstrates how a force of light views the forces of twilight. Someone who is a bit shady revealing themselves to someone who lives fully in light will not be trusted and will be thought of as evil because a force of light only has bad experiences with objects from a shady world. However, eventually, like Link, people naturally averse to twilight can discover that it may be helpful. This force of light will allow the force of twilight to help, but will still not fully trust them.
Because Link only has experience with creatures from his world, he does not know how to handle things from the Twilight world. Midna thus must continually teach Link her ways, as though she were teaching a child. This often leads to Midna laughing or scoffing at the methods of Hylians and others from the light world.
“Look at that open window. This village is full of idiots.”
Whereas the Ordonians are trustworthy folks, Midna came from an environment where thievery was a legitimate way to accomplish a task. Link himself may listen to Midna; however, he does not always approve of these so called “methods” that she uses. He often gives her dissatisfied growls to show his disapproval. Despite these critiques she gets from Link, Midna feels that the ends justify the means.
This part of their relationship shows how a force of the shadows views the world. Anyone who lives their life thinking that there is always a “good” way to do something seems foolish to those in twilight. To them, the end result is what matters: “Maybe you have to get your hands dirty, so what? Also, I don’t care if you think what I’m doing is bad. It isn’t that bad.”
As the relationship between Link and Midna develops, they become friends. When Zant curses both Link and Midna, Link struggles to get her the help she needs, but when help becomes available, she asks for a cure for Link. This demonstrates an increasing understanding between the two. Link first saw Midna as an evil brat, while Midna first saw Link as a naïve puppet she could use. As time passed, the two became understanding of each others’ methods and realized that the other one wasn’t so bad. Link learns of Midna’s past and that she has a reason for being with him. Midna learns of Link’s heroic aspects (note how he handles Midna telling him her story after they reach the desert for the first time with a simple smile.) The force of light and force of twilight begin to realize that the motives behind the actions the other one does make sense.
Towards the end of the story, Midna teleports both Link and Zelda out of harm’s way as she is about to fight Ganondorf by herself. Afterwards, Link almost goes into a fit of rage when he believes Midna to be dead. What a turnaround! Light and twilight getting upset when the other is put in danger?! By then, Link understands the world of twilight and Midna understands the world of light. They both understand that the other one’s world is not bad, just different.
Zelda is the representation of pure light. Yes, Link is also a representation of a force of light (in fact, you could say the same for just about anyone from Hyrule) but Zelda takes it to another level. After all, some lights are brighter than others. When Link first encounters Zelda, he is very suspicious because all he sees is a cloaked figure which matches everything else in the dark world he’s been put in; however, upon seeing that the person in front of him is Zelda, or rather a normal Hylian like he used to be, he calms down, unlike his reaction to Midna. Even in Twilight, she was a clear representation of light, which Link found comforting.
Midna’s actions toward Zelda help to emphasize Zelda’s role. Midna seems to not trust anyone. Living one’s whole life in the shadows can do that to a person. However, when Midna has nowhere else to go, she will turn to Zelda. This is because Midna knows Zelda will not, or rather cannot, do anything untrustworthy. As a being of pure light, she has no dark side. This is also why Midna is able to mischievously call Zelda “Twilight Princess.” For a person like Zelda who is the princess of light, both literally and figuratively, this could be considered an insult. Twilight has darkness in it. Pure light doesn’t.
Midna proves that Twili do not hate Hylians. Indeed, she can’t bring herself to hurt Zelda at the end of the game, even when doing so is necessary for her and Link’s survival, and does not even resort to her usual justifications earlier in the game. She does not want to taint something pure. This shows how people with a similar morality in real life don’t necessarily hate those with these seemingly “naive” views; they recognize that they must work with them in certain situations.
Zant and Ganondorf
Zant is a force of Twilight while Ganondorf is a force of pure darkness. While people who act in the light see people who act in the twilight as the opposite extreme, Ganondorf is the representation of true, extreme, darkness, and the true opposite of light. Zant felt that living his life as a shadow wasn’t enough; that he had to be endowed with full darkness. This is where Ganondorf comes in. Zant believes Ganondorf to be his “god” and when someone feels that way, they often believe their “god” will take care of them. But Ganondorf, like any force of darkness, is self-serving. Zant did not fully understand the world of darkness, but thought he did. Once he allowed himself to get close to the darkness, it deceived him. In darkness, one can’t see clearly what’s right in front of them.
Zant and Ganondorf’s relationship also demonstrate the misconceptions of twilight. Though it is believed by the characters in the game that Zant is the true villain, Ganondorf is actually the culprit. Only when twilight is fueled by darkness, or allied with it, does it become an enemy. Bad deeds are the opposite of good deeds, so using shady methods to accomplish bad deeds is what truly works against the forces of good. However, just because one does shady things, does not mean it is to accomplish something bad. Should they be trying for good results, this would make them an ally rather than an enemy of light, as Midna demonstrates.
The Effects of Worlds on People and the Effects of People on Worlds
Everything is clear in Hyrule and there is no mystery to it: bad is bad and good is good. Sure, bad things happen and there are monsters running about, but it is a happy place. Only when twilight arrives does Hyrule, at least in the context of Twilight Princess, start to see very serious problems. That’s because when encountered with twilight, forces of light become uncomfortable. Everyone in Hyrule was worried about the events around them once Zant’s twilight came down. That is because the world in which one lives in is the world one is comfortable with. When something comes along that is different, it can often be view as dark or scary.
The Hylians do not completely fade when Twilight is upon them. As stated earlier, twilight is not true darkness. Also, the stronger one is in the light, the more they can be seen in twilight. That’s why Zelda does not change and why Link only changes forms. The cause is the Triforce in Link and Zelda, but the symbolic reason is that they represent major forces of light.
The world one lives in influences the way one is suppose to be. Midna is the prime example of this. When the game first starts, she’s mischievous and only cares about her world. However, the longer a person of twilight stays in the light, the more influenced they are by it.
“Shadow has been moved by light it seems… How amusing…”
Among the forces of light, twilight and darkness, light is the most influential. Midna hid in the shadows and tried to do things sneakily when the game first started, an attribute of someone who lives in twilight, but by the end of the game she acts more and more like a force of the light. When she gets to Ganondorf, she outright calls out his fakeness, and is no longer scared. Eventually, she regains her true form which holds more light than darkness. This is heavily influenced by the fact that Zant, dark twilight, turned Midna into an imp and the light spirits of Hyrule were able to restore to her what had been lost.
Link is a heavy representation of the light, so in Hyrule, he is held in high regard by many people as both a hero and a friend. Although Link cannot be his usual self in the twilight world, his light still shines. Only his sword gains the capabilities of repelling darkness from the world. When there is twilight in the sky, it’s not the darkness that stands out, it’s the light. His effect on the twilight world is similar.
Zelda’s presence in the light world is not in existence much in this game, but her presence in twilight leaves a lot for us to interpret. She is able to call forth the powers of the light spirits and the power she possesses is a major weakness for Ganondorf. However, no matter how brightly she shines, in a world of twilight you can’t have light without darkness, hence the robe on her normal hylian body. Even she is somewhat affected by the darkness around her.
In Zelda Dungeon’s video walkthrough of Twilight Princess, it is suggested that Zelda switches places with Midna when she heals her. If this is true, it would mean that Zelda transferred her light to Midna, which would explain both her disappearance from Hyrule and the sudden appearance of the barrier which the Ganondorf is responsible for. Without Zelda’s radiant light, Ganondorf’s darkness can begin to show.
Zant’s presence in both the Twilight and Hyrule changes both of them. Even though light is the most influential force, twilight still holds a fair amount of influence. Parts of the world of Hyrule are engulfed in an evil type of Twilight. Notice how Link will change forms in Zant’s twilight, but not in the normal twilight world. It is Zant that turns Midna into a darker version of herself and scatters the tears of lights from the light spirits. Of course, he isn’t full darkness, so there’s only so much he can do.
Ganondorf makes everywhere he goes darker. Once he is fully released, Hyrule, the world of light, gradually becomes a worse place to live. Scaling his castle, the sky begins to become a black storm that has evil clearly written on it. Even Zant’s magic didn’t affect Hyrule this deeply. However, light is still the most effective thing here. Ganondorf’s presence in the light world changes it, but he is weakened by light. Link’s sword, which holds the light from the sols in it, and Zelda’s magic, which consists of the light of Hyrule, can weaken and kill Ganondorf, who represents darkness, light’s real enemy.
It is apparent that Twilight Princess was meant to leave us with more than just an entertaining game. The developers also wanted us to see that just because we believe we have a certain perception of something doesn’t mean our perceptions are correct. Forces of light often view forces of twilight as the enemy. But those people often forget…
“The twilight there holds a serene beauty… You have seen it yourself as the sun sets in this world.”
When driven by light, those who live in twilight are suppose to be allies and can do great things that the world of light can appreciate. Those in twilight tend to forget as well. The methods of one who dwells in the light may seem unnecessary, but they are needed to do the things that a person living in the shadows can’t. Without Link, Midna would not have been able to get through this ordeal, nor would Link have been able to do it without Midna.
“Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin…One cannot exist without the other.”
The developers of Twilight Princess were trying to emphasize that opposite as their methods may be, twilight and light need each other to exist. It is darkness that is the enemy. Once people from one world fully understand that the other is just different, they will learn to coexist with each other and fight the true enemy.